TOP calls for 'housing emergency' declaration as prices skyrocket further out of reach

One of the biggest parties not to make it into Parliament this year has started a petition calling on the Government to declare a 'housing emergency'.

New figures show the nationwide median price is now in the region of $750,000, and in Auckland above $1 million, and home ownership rates are at a seven-decade low.

"The Labour-led Government has shown leadership and courage on the climate, so why can't they do it with housing?" says The Opportunities Party (TOP) leader Shai Navot. 

"The Labour Party has just achieved its best-ever election result in 50 years, and they are the first party to govern alone since MMP was brought in. Despite this huge mandate they are showing political weakness over one of the most pressing issues of our time and one that affects all New Zealanders. It's not good enough."

New Zealand became the 33rd country in the world to declare a climate emergency earlier this month, MPs promising it wouldn't just be symbolic. TOP says fixing New Zealand's housing market is just as important as fixing the climate, and far more urgent for many Kiwis.

"The Government has demonstrated it is unwilling to implement any real change that might help the average Kiwi to buy a house in this market," says Navot.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said "sustained moderation" in house prices is her Government's goal, not bringing them down despite record increases in the past 12 months. The median price of an Auckland home, for example, rose more in the past 12 months than the average household annual income. 

"For most New Zealanders, their house is their most significant asset," Ardern said earlier in December. "A significant crash in the housing market - that impacts people's most significant asset."

At the same time as owners are pocketing huge and potentially tax-free gains, the waiting list for social housing has hit a new high of more than 21,000, and home ownership has fallen under 50 percent in Auckland. 

ANZ this week said a crash was inevitable unless more action is taken, perhaps even to gently lower values to avoid a "painful correction".  It's already stopped lending to investors without at least a 40 percent deposit, months ahead of the Reserve Bank's move to a lower 30 percent requirement.

"For banks to self-regulate like this sends a strong signal that the housing market is out of control," says Navot.

"Declaring a housing emergency, much like declaring a climate emergency, gives us the necessary tools to track, measure, and evaluate the progress made by the Government."

TOP also wants a "collaborative, bipartisan approach" between parties and other groups "such as Infrastructure NZ, Local Government NZ, community housing providers, think-tanks, social support NGOs, iwi, economists, and research groups", saying this would "alleviate the partisanship which can hold up much-needed changes to legislation".

"We've had enough of the posturing, hand-waving, and blame game on this issue. It's time the Government owns up to the fact that housing in New Zealand is a real mess and takes the steps needed to start to fix this crucial problem."

Labour's flagship KiwiBuild struggled to get off the ground, and its ambitious targets were eventually scrapped. Finance Minister Grant Robertson recently asked the Reserve Bank to consider house price inflation when it sets monetary policy, and has said there will be announcements in early 2021 aimed at easing demand and increasing supply

Just under 3000 new state homes have been built in the past three years, as the waiting list went from about 5000 to 21,000.